ReplayTV Renounces Ad-Zapping Technology

22 July 2003

ReplayTV, a TiVo-style digital video recorder that allows viewers to record and store their favorite TV programs on a hard drive rather than videotape, has agreed to remove two features from its product that infuriated the ad and broadcasting industries even more than they delighted consumers.

ReplayTV's new 5500 model, on sale next month, has been re-engineered so that it cannot automatically skip entire commercial breaks without recording them. Nor will it be able to send recorded programming over the internet to other ReplayTV users outside a home network.

But the devices will still indefinitely store many hours of programming, while enabling users to skip manually in 30-second tranches through recorded commercials.

Two years ago, a consortium of movie and TV studios sued Sonicblue – the former owner of ReplayTV and now in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection – for abetting copyright infringement with the device’s commercial-skipping feature. The company and its technology was subsequently acquired by D&M Holdings of Japan.

D&M executives insist that the dropping of these features was voluntary, although critics see the move as capitulation rather than an accommodation. Jim Hollingsworth, president of D&M’s ReplayTV division, denies this. “We did this on our own. There was no coercion. We will take features out because we want to be a positive force in the industry.”

But Jeff Joseph, vp and spokesman for the Consumer Electronics Association, is not convinced: “Companies are under considerable pressure to bow to the wishes of the entertainment industry. This is unfair and anticompetitive. If advertisers and broadcasters are seeing their traditional business model threatened, then it would behove them to consider alternative business models.”

Data sourced from: New York Times; additional content by WARC staff